Strange Seed by T.M. Wright (Published 1978)
I find it criminal, criminal, that critically lauded writer T.M. Wright still isn't a household name. If not in everyday American homes, then at the very least the homes of horror literature enthusiasts. Mention his name outside of the circles of established writers within the field or journalists of the genre and you are likely to be met with a perplexed "T.M. who?". He is without a doubt, one of the foremost masters of the quiet terror, the understated shiver, the subtle fear and the nuance of dread. He is an immensely talented writer, and he deserves to make your acquaintance.
Maybe it's my lot in life to be running around like Dr. Miles Bennell at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, pleading excitedly for somebody, anybody, to listen to me when it comes to the good shit (books and films alike) that are more than worth their time. Well, listen to me now horror fiends and fans of the written word, T.M. Wright is the best friend you didn't know you had, or needed, in quite some time.
The first in Wright's "Children of the Earth" series (I didn't even know there was such a thing, reading the 4th book in the series, The People of the Dark, out of order. I also still think that that title is wonderfully evocative and capable of raising serious goose-flesh when you conjure up your own imagery in relation to it.) and his first novel to see publication, Strange Seed was selected for Stephen King's list of 100 most important novels in the horror field (published in his '81 non-fiction tome Danse Macbre). An asterisk was added next to 35 of those titles, with an assurance that these were of "particular importance". T.M. Wright's Strange Seed had an asterisk. King also had this to say:
"In terms of it's compulsive readability, it's growing tension and most of all, it's grasp of a world where ominous wonders draw closer and closer to it's central characters, Strange Seed is the best supernatural novel since Interview With the Vampire. It is a hypnotic journey into darkness. You'll be a long time forgetting this book - if you ever do."
My palms should be near shaky as I crack the old, weathered spine of my '78 hardback edition. Shaky in anticipation of the cold sweats they will surely be wringing themselves of pages in. It wouldn't be the first time Wright has wrought such physical reactions from me with his prose. From what I have read thus far of his body of work , The School (1990) remains to this day in my top ten horror novels of all time, the memory of which can still make my blood turn to ice on black winter nights (nights like this one come to think of it, *shiver*). The Place (1989) was another memorably surreal journey into the fantastic. A Manhattan Ghost Story (1984) was a powerhouse novel of quiet, paranoid dread. Lastly, The People of the Dark (though I am certain would have made slightly more sense to me I had know there was an order for it to be read in) was an exhilarating sojourn into the strange and terrifying. With Strange Seed's reputation firmly established by those in-the-know (and the memory of my previous journeys into Wright's unique, chilling worlds fresh in my mind) I'm gathering myself for what is surely in store. Now, I'm dimming the lights, settling into my reading chair (with the cold, January night sky outside the window beside me as my only company), pulling the blanket close me as my sole source of protection and turning the page. I'll let you know how it all goes, if I make it back at all.
If you are anything like I was (which is to say lost) and are curious as to what stories comprise Wright's "Children of the Earth" series (there is not a wealth of information available out there) the books are as follows:
Strange Seed (1978)
Nursery Tale (1981)
The Children of the Island (1983)
The People of the Dark (1985)
Laughing Man (2003)
Strange Seed is currently in development for a feature film at Animatus Studio.